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France braces for strikes that could bring the country ‘to a standstill’ for days on end


Strikes continued in France over a controversial pension reform plan on Tuesday, and this time unions upped the ante. Unlike previous strikes, this week’s strike has no pre-arranged end date. Life in France could come to a standstill for days as workers in several industries are expected to go on strike.

Teachers, gas and electricity workers, train drivers and industrial workers are all expected to take part in strikes that began on Tuesday, sparking national unrest that could last for days.

March 7 will be the sixth day of industrial action since January against government plans to overhaul France’s pension rights and raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

But in a departure from previous strikes, the main federations of French unions – including the CFDT and CGT – have declared “grèves reconductibles”, meaning workers will vote at the end of each strike day on whether to go ahead with the strike. With no fixed end date, unions hope the rotating strikes risk disrupting daily life and seriously threaten the economy, forcing the government to its knees.

“We’ve always said that if necessary, we will step up,” Philippe Martinez, president of the influential CGT union, told French weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday. “Tuesday will be like that.”

>> Pension problem: Why is the reform of the French retirement system so complicated?

Deputies said the striking workers were long-term.For gas and electric workers, the strike, which began on Friday, March 3, will last “at least until March 7 and at most until until we win’, said Sébastien Ménesplier, secretary-general of the trade union federation CGT Energie.

Energy output at several nuclear power plants in France fell on Friday, leading to a drop in overall electricity supply.Amid cost of living and energy crises, union representatives say production will fall even lower As the strike continues to negatively impact the French economy.

For the week ahead, Ménesplier predicts targeted energy cuts, lockdowns, sit-ins and ‘Robin Hood’ actions, adding: “If Emmanuel Macron doesn’t want France to stand still, a dark day ahead for the energy sector One week, he better roll back his reforms.”

Strikes affect industry, transport, education

Participation is expected to be high on Tuesday, with workers from all walks of life expected to mobilize.

In the transport sector, national railway company SNCF and Île-de-France transport service provider RATP are both expected to hold large-scale strikes, with transport authorities warning of “significant disruption” in Paris.

In December 2019, public transport in parts of the capital and around France was shut down after weeks of strikes by transport workers over pension reforms.

>> French transport strike enters fourth week without a break

International travel on Thalys trains and flights will also be affected, with France’s civil aviation authority (DGAC) recommending airports in major French cities reduce flight traffic by up to 30%. Delays and cancellations are expected.

In education, seven major teachers’ unions called for a “total closure” of schools on March 7. Beginning Tuesday, high school and college students are expected to join faculty and staff in protests, peaking on March 9, a day dedicated to “youth mobilization.”

>> ‘Live to work or work to live?’: Why young French oppose Macron’s pension reform

In the industrial sector, the CGT called on refinery workers to “lock down the entire economy” by going on strike to disrupt the production, distribution and import of fuel.

Petroleum and chemical workers, including those in the pharmaceutical industry, were called to strike along with France’s 1.5 million metalworkers – many of them working for market-leading aviation, car and steel companies.

Garbage collectors, labourers, dock workers and others have also been called to strike “until the reforms are withdrawn”, the CGT said.

Truck drivers started their strike early on Sunday, with some industrial facilities expected to be locked down and a “slow down” move to impede traffic on major roads.

“come to a standstill”

Unions want a “shutdown” in France on Tuesday and beyond as more workers join industrial action.

Police said as many as 1.4 million people were expected to take part in the protests, with between 60 and 90,000 protesters in Paris alone. The union also expects the scale of the unrest to manifest itself in other ways; roads could be blocked, shops shuttered and construction sites quiet.

The government has tried to dissuade the strikers, although the secretary-general of the CGT, which represents chemical workers, said the strikers were prepared to “paralyze the French economy” to achieve their goals.

Public Action and Accounting Minister Gabriel Attar has warned that the threat of economic disruption is possible bring workers Get on your knees, not the economy, and call on unions to act “responsibly”.

Asked about the strike after wrapping up a visit to the African country on Saturday, Macron said he had “nothing new to say” on the topic.

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